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Santa Maria della Visitazione

SMdV and Gesuati

Hang on, this might be a little confusing. There are two churches in Venice with this name, and this is the one on the Zattere, that great waterfront promenade in Dorsoduro, not the one also known as La Pieta (or the Vivaldi church) that’s on the Riva degli Schiavoni in Castello.

And to make it even more confusing, this church was known as the Gesuati until the Dominicans built the larger church next door which took the name (and the best art), but the Gesuati (Santa Maria del Rosario) should not be confused with the Gesuiti (Santa Maria Assunta), another big white Baroque church up in Cannaregio. Whew!

Anyway, the photo above shows the Zattere, with this Santa Maria della Visitazione on the left and the larger Gesuati to the right. The first church on the locale was built in the early 1400’s by the Jesuate order from Siena and was dedicated to St. Jerome (San Girolamo dei Gesuati). The church was rebuilt in 1493-1524 and rededicated to Our Lady of the Visitation (which refers to Mary’s visit to her cousin Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist).


It’s a pretty little Renaissance church, though no one is quite sure who the architect was; both Mauro Condussi and Tuilio Lombardo are given credit for at least parts of the design. The Jesuate order also built a monastery with several cloisters beside and behind the church. The order was suppressed in 1668, and the Dominicans took over the complex and soon decided they needed a larger church. Instead of demolishing the smaller church, they built next door and left the older church standing, which is pretty unusual for Venice.

don orioneFor a while, the old church was a library and then the entire religious complex was suppressed by the French in the early 19th century. Santa Maria della Visitazione eventually reopened as a church and today, it’s the oratory for the Istituto Don Orione, who have turned the monastery into a conference center and “modern” religious guest house with free Wifi in the open air cloisters. I met some folks who had stayed there, and they said that it’s quite nice, spartan but clean, and fairly inexpensive considering its primo location on the Zattere. The Institute's website has a partial aerial view and also some nice shots of the cloisters. The photo to the left shows a sculpture of Don Orione that's inside the church.

There was no one in attendance when I visited this church; instead, there was a sign saying “You’re being monitored by video camera.” So modern! It’s a sweet little place. Its best painting, a gorgeous Tintoretto “Crucifixion,” has been moved to the bigger church, but it’s worth going in this one to look at the wooden coffered ceiling – a nice Tuscan (or Umbrian) Renaissance work with little portraits of 58 saints and prophets and a medallion of the Visitation in the center.

This church has a “bocca di leone” on its façade; this one is where people could lodge their complaints about sanitation problems.

Santa Maria della Visitazione

These nice monks are on the church's entrance:

Santa Maria della Visitazione

Santa Maria della Visitazione

To visit this church

8-12, 3-6 daily

Painting below by Rubens Santoro (1859 -1942)

S. Maria della Visitazione and S. Maria del Rosario, Venice


More Churches:

Churches in Cannaregio
Churches in Castello
Churches in Dorsoduro
Churches in San Marco
Churches in San Polo
Churches in Santa Croce
Churches on the Lagoon Islands

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Comments (9)

Now that was a lovely read with my cappuccino this mornng. ;)


Annie, this church looks lovely. I think the Zattere is fabulous, and I love your picture juxtaposing the larger Gesu and the smaller Visitazione!

The ceiling sounds beautiful.


Annie, thanks for this. We walked by this church quite often without really noticing it until there were signs posted for an evening choral concert there.

The church felt peaceful and intimate, so different from many in Venice.

Leslie, thanks! Sometimes I forget that we are halfway across the world from each other, and when you mentioned breakfast, I was like "what?"

Thanks Sandra! I like that photo too. At first, I wondered if I should crop out that vaporetto rope at the bottom but then I decided it looked kinda cool.

Cubbies, so good to hear from you! I would love to hear a concert in this church - it IS very peaceful and intimate (and unvisited, I think) and would be a perfect venue for music. I'll have to check and see if anything is happening there in December. My best to Fred!

Annie, I have always wondered about this church. I am so glad you wrote about this church. Now I understand why I was always so confused with the similar names. Beautiful painting!

Girasoli, thanks! It is confusing - it took me a while to sort it out myself. It doesn't help that there are close to 50 "Santa Maria" churches in Venice! I like that painting too.

Kathy (Trekcapri):

Hi Annie, that is a great photo of the two churches. I did manage to visit the Maria del Rosario, but unfortunately missed visiting the Maria della Visitazione. That would be so great if there was a concert there in December when you are there.

Thank you so much for this very interesting and enjoyable post!

Hi Kathy, I'm glad you got to visit that church! Yes I'd love to find a concert in December. And your trip to Spain is getting VERY close - woo hoo! Thanks, Annie

nick fera:

Hi, This is my eight time going to Italy. Its like going to a giant museum. Always see something new. Ninety per cent of mu family there. Those of on limited time, plan ahead what you want to see. When you get there, leave your mind open and get ready for a great adventure. I always find one around the corner when I'm there. Make friends while there and the wonders of Italy will slowly unfold to you.

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